NASA spacecraft hurtles toward the sun

Posted August 13, 2018

NASA on Sunday successfully launched the Parker Solar Probe, the U.S. space agency's historic small car-size probe to 'touch the Sun, ' from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Altogether, the Parker probe will make 24 close approaches to our star during the seven-year, $1.5 billion journey.

The probe, about the size of a auto, will fly through the Sun's atmosphere and will come as close as 3.8 million miles to the star's surface, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before (Earth's average distance to the Sun is 93 million miles), according to NASA. "We have not been able to answer these questions".

When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel at some 430,000 miles per hours - the fastest ever human-made object, fast enough to travel from NY to Tokyo in one minute.

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Mankind's first mission to "touch" the Sun may have panned out differently had it not been for Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, whose intervention made it possible for a research paper proposing the existence of solar wind to get published 60 years ago. Now 91, Parker, the first living scientist to have a space probe named in his honor, flew to Cape Canaveral to witness his first rocket launch.

"When [scientists] looked into the distance away from the Sun, they saw an added brightness to the signal", Gizmodo reported.

The Parker Solar Probe lifted off on the Delta IV Heavy rocket a day late, after a dramatic delay on Saturday saw lift-off halted with two minutes to go.

It has been designed with shields to help it endure the intense heat and solar radiation. He said it was like looking at photos of the Taj Mahal for years and then beholding the real thing in India.

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Main objectives of Parker Solar Probe?

"This space weather has direct influence, not always positive, on our technology in space, our spacecraft, it disrupts our communications, it creates a hazardous environment for astronauts and in the most extreme cases can actually affect our power grids here on the Earth", said Alex Young, associate director of NASA's heliophysics program.

"It's a whole new phase, and it's going to be fascinating throughout".

The sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius). "Even I still go, really? In 10 to 20 years, a carbon disk will be floating around the sun in orbit, and it will be around until the end of the solar system", CNN quoted Andy Driesman, Parker Solar Probe project manager at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, as saying. Seven Venus flybys are planned over the seven-year mission to fine-tune the trajectory, setting up the close-in aim points. The PSP successfully launched on Sunday and will be orbiting the Sun by November.

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"During summer, Earth and the other planets in our solar system are in the most favourable alignment to allow us to get close to the Sun".